Hagel Stepping Down as Defense Chief Under Pressure

New York Times, By Helene Cooper, November 24

Washington – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and a beleaguered national security team that has struggled to stay ahead of an onslaught of global crises…

The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.

Related, Andrew Bacevich on the Middle East: Five Bedrock Washington Assumptions That Perpetuate Our Middle East Policy Train Wreck.

The Downside of the Boom

North Dakota took on the oversight of a multibillion-dollar oil industry with a regulatory system built on trust, warnings and second chances. The cooperative approach doesn’t seem to generate results.


NYT -In early August 2013, Arlene Skurupey of Blacksburg, Va., got an animated call from the normally taciturn farmer who rents her family land in Billings County, N.D. There had been an accident at the Skurupey 1-9H oil well. “Oh, my gosh, the gold is blowing,” she said he told her. “Bakken gold.”

It was the 11th blowout since 2006 at a North Dakota well operated by Continental Resources, the most prolific producer in the booming Bakken oil patch. Spewing some 173,250 gallons of potential pollutants, the eruption, undisclosed at the time, was serious enough to bring the Oklahoma-based company’s chairman and chief executive, Harold G. Hamm, to the remote scene.

More of this lengthy, detailed article at the link.   (image: Brent McDonald/NYT)

New Benghazi report says security flaws were known, but not why Stevens was there

McClatchy, By Nancy A. Youssef, November 21

Washington — A House Intelligence Committee investigation of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. outposts in Benghazi concludes that while the Central intelligence Agency had properly secured its compound in the Libyan city, the State Department knew its security precautions were inadequate at the U.S. Special Mission where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens died.

But the report, while offering rich and previously unknown details about the hours-long attack on the two facilities, still leaves unanswered a key question: If, as the report states, the CIA station chief in Tripoli, State Department diplomatic security agents and CIA contractors in Benghazi knew the mission wasn’t properly secured, why was Stevens allowed to stay there for what was supposed to be a four-day visit?

Indeed, security appeared lax even after 80 attackers had stormed the sprawling four-building complex when CIA contractors arrived to offer assistance, the report said. “The CIA security team observed that some, perhaps all, of the [diplomatic security] agents were unarmed and one of them was not wearing shoes,” the report said.
Continue reading New Benghazi report says security flaws were known, but not why Stevens was there

Why Sherman was right to burn Atlanta

The New York Time’s Phil Leigh really deserves this smack-down, the kind only the war nerd Gary Brecher can provide:

There are times when the sheer ignorance and ingratitude of the American public makes you sick.

This week marks the 150th anniversary of Sherman’s March from Atlanta to the Sea, which set off on November 16, 1864—the most remarkable military campaign on the 19th century, the campaign which got Lincoln reelected, broke the back of the Confederacy, and slapped most of Dixie’s insane diehards into the realization they were defeated.

You’d think our newspaper of record, the New York Times, would find an appropriate way to mark the occasion, but the best the old Confederate-gray lady could come up with was a churlish, venomous little screed by an obscure neo-Confederate diehard named Phil Leigh. Leigh poses a stupid question: “Who Burned Atlanta?” and comes up with a stupider answer: “Sherman, that bad, bad man!”

More at the link.

How Public Power Can Defeat Plutocrats

Bill Moyers with Larry Lessig and Zephyr Teachout

Bill had the same two guests on last week…, I didn’t get around to posting about it…, but should have. I have said more than once here…, that we can’t solve many of our problems without campaign finance reform. Here’s a snip from Bill’s opening commentary:

Today, gifts to politicians that were once called graft or bribes are called contributions. And the Supreme Court has ruled that powerful corporations and rich individuals can give just about anything they want to politicians who do their bidding, and it’s not considered corruption.

The watchdog Sunlight Foundation reports that from 2007 to 2012, two hundred corporations spent almost $6 billion for lobbying and campaign contributions, and received more than $4 trillion — that’s $4 trillion — in government contracts and other forms of assistance.

And if you ask the question…, “What can I do about it?” Here is a link to more than one answer, 8 Things You Can Do to Help Get Money Out of Politics

Weekend Jukebox: What becomes of… ? and other questions

Not sure what the theme is? Make one up…

RIP Jimmy Ruffin: What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

plus:

Nina Simone: “Someone To Watch Over Me”

Everly Bros, Mark Knopfler, Chet Atkins: “Why Worry?”

Court rules Michigan has no responsibility to provide quality public education

The Michigan Citizen, November 13

Detroit, MI — In a blow to schoolchildren statewide, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 7 the State of Michigan has no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students in the struggling Highland Park School District.

A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”

The decision dismisses an unprecedented “right-to-read” lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Michigan in July 2012 on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, Mich. The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.

Friday Catblogging from the archive: Dec. 18 ,2009

Originally posted as a diary by SPK in 2009

Quote for the day

“How can I prepare kids for the world if I’m not preparing the world for the kids?”

-Tory Russell, youth worker and co-founder of resistance group Hands Up United, Ferguson, MO, from his interview today on NPR’s Here and Now.

Should Syria be Partitioned?

~ from a newsletter by Chuck Spinney

Attached is a short Syrian sitrep and summary of the central points of a plan being advocated by Joshua Landis, a professor at the Univ. of Oklahoma, and one of our nation’s leading experts on Syria.  Landis runs an informative blog, known as Syria Comment and his plan is discussed at this link in a video interview with Fareek Zakaria of CNN.  My guess is that Landis is well aware of the limitations and uncertainties of his proposal to solve what has become a gordian knot of contradictions.  Zakaria’s gushing enthusiasm for the Landis plan may not reflect Landis’s confidence in whether or not this plan will work.

For example, a subsequent blog entry on Landis’s site, The Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra: A Looming Grand Jihadi Alliance?, Posted by Aymenn Al-Tamimi on Friday, November 14th, 2014, lays out a very interesting argument outlining reasons why al Nusra and ISIS are unlikely to form a lasting alliance.  If Al-Tamimi is correct, this may well render impossible any efforts to stabilize a moderate Sunni state.  The bullets below summarize Landis’s points as I understand them; my comments are in red.

In no way implying criticism, the Landis plan may be unworkable. But pressure to partition Syria is going to grow, so it is worth thinking about its implications.

Continue reading Should Syria be Partitioned?

Thomas Frank : How ’70s and ’80s cynicism poisoned Democrats and America

Nixon’s lies and Reagan’s charms created the space for Clinton, Carter and Obama to redefine (and gut) liberalism

Salon, By Thomas Frank, November 16

“The Invisible Bridge” is the third installment in Rick Perlstein’s grand history of conservatism, and like its predecessors, the book is filled with startling insights. It is the story of a time much like our own—the 1970s, which took America from the faith-crushing experience of Watergate to economic hard times and, eventually, to a desperate enthusiasm for two related figures: the nostalgic presidential aspirant Ronald Reagan, and the “anti-politician” Jimmy Carter. (I discussed Perlstein’s views on Carter in this space a few weeks ago.)

In blending cultural with political history, “The Invisible Bridge” strikes me as an obvious addition to any list of nonfiction masterpieces. But I also confess to being biased: Not only do I feel nostalgia for many of the events the book describes—Hank Aaron’s pursuit of the home run record, for example—but I have been friends with Rick since long ago, when he was in college and The Baffler was publishing his essays. I interviewed Rick on an Amtrak train traveling from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, a few weeks ago (we were there to do readings from a new anthology of essays); here is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Interview at the link.

Making Fools of the Fed

Just about everything the Federal Reserve Bank does speaks of dignity.  Dignified premises, dignified public relations, dignified people running and staffing the institution.  The same applies to all the other major central banks, like the Bank of England, the Banque de France, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of Japan.  You would think such dignified institutions with such distinguished people running them would not easily be fooled, or be easily made to look foolish, but fools they have been, and fools they continue to be, judging how once again the giant international commercial banks have been found to be perpetrators of large-scale, deliberate, and criminal fraud. Continue reading Making Fools of the Fed

Hardwired sexually?

Julian writes on” The Public Sins of Men:the private sins of women.

Continue reading Hardwired sexually?

Thomas Merton Listening to the Rain

This, via Monksworks, from Thomas Merton:

Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By “they” I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even your rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness.

The rain I am in is not like the rain of cities. It fills the wood with an immense and confused sound. It covers the flat roof of the cabin and its porch with insistent and controlled rhythms. And I listen, because it reminds me again and again that the whole world runs by rhythms I have not yet learned to recognize, rhythms that are not those of the engineer.

Continue reading Thomas Merton Listening to the Rain

Juncker axes Europe’s chief scientific adviser

While Europe’s scientists were watching Rosetta, EU/EC President Juncker quietly scrapped the role of his top scientific adviser. What does this mean for the future of evidence-based policy in Europe?

The Guardian, By James Wilsdon, November 13

Yesterday was a moment of celebration for European science. Although the precise fate of the Philae probe remains unclear, the remarkable achievements of the Rosetta mission reflect the noblest ideals of pan-European research: 2000 scientists and engineers from across the member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) pooling their resources and expertise in pursuit of new knowledge. Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s director-general, described it as “a great great day, not only for ESA, but…I think for the world.”

But while the eyes of Europe’s scientific community were fixed firmly upwards, back on earth, in the corridors of Brussels, a less edifying plan began to unfold. Borrowing a trick from the Jo Moore school of media management, the European Commission chose the evening before the Rosetta landing to confirm quietly that its most senior scientific role, that of chief scientific adviser (CSA) to its president, is being scrapped.

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